Wide range of players found at Rockingham's gaming room
SALEM - They came for the bikes and the bets.
Rockingham Park was all revved up Saturday with a motorcycle show, a packed simulcast horse racing schedule, and an increasingly popular draw - the Poker Room.
It's charity gaming, meaning the gambling benefits an area charity. Salem Family Resources was Saturday's charitable winner. Other charities benefiting from the games include the Salem Boys and Girls Club, Rockingham Nutrition, and Rockingham County Child Advocacy.
The Poker Room at Rockingham Park is open seven days a week. The games include Texas Hold 'Em, blackjack, Boston 5 and roulette.
More than 225 people were sitting at poker tables, some staring zen-like at the dealer's hands working the cards. Other players fiddled with their poker chips. Two roulette tables and three blackjack tables were also busy by mid-afternoon. House rules spell out buy-ins and other betting standards.
Idle chatter among players blended into that of a hum bubbling above the room. Floor manager Scott Webster, standing in the center of the room, scanned the active tables.
Depending on the game and the skill of the participant, a person can spend $40 and play for an hour or two, Webster said.
The crowd varies night to night, but he said he sees a good mix of people. A husband and wife shopping at the Mall at Rockingham Park, located just next door and about 100 yards from Exit 1 on Interstate 93, may swing by to play poker, he said.
There are different types of players. Some are more recreational. Some are more focused on trying to win some serious money.
A local businessman, who asked not to be identified, said he is a regular card player at Rockingham Park because it is fun, local entertainment.
Webster shruged when asked about bills in the New Hampshire Legislature to legalize casino gambling. "People are gambling everywhere," he said. "It's a great opportunity for New Hampshire."
Rockingham Gaming LLC operates the charitable gaming rooms at Rockingham Park in Salem and Seabrook Park in Seabrook. More than $11 million has gone to charities since the two poker rooms opened in 2006, according to RockinghamPark.com.
Besides major events like the motorcycle show - which continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Rockingham Park continues to offer bingo three nights a week and it has thoroughbred racing via simulcast is broadcast on numerous large television screens and monitors.
Webster estimates 65 percent of the poker players are from nearby Massachusetts. A spin through the parking lot shows that just about every other license plate is from the Bay State.